"Father knows best."
How do those three words make you feel? Turn them over in your mind a couple of times and be aware of the subtlest of feelings. Be honest.
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Do they make you feel slightly squeamish? A little discomfort in your solar plexus? Is something deep down inside you repelled by those words?
If so, you're not alone. Contempt for male authority – as if to say, "Give me a break, father sure didn't know best in my life" – is everywhere around us. We're swimming in it. You see, men, boys and masculinity itself have been under withering national assault for decades.
"Father Knows Best," of course, was a popular TV show during the '50s, when I was a little boy. Set in the wholesome Midwestern town of "Springfield," insurance agent Jim Anderson (played by Robert Young) would come home from work each evening, trade his sport jacket for a nice, comfortable sweater, and then deal with the everyday growing-up problems of his family. Both Jim and wife Margaret (played by Jane Wyatt) were cast as thoughtful and mature grown-ups. Jim could always be counted on to resolve that week's crisis with a combination of kindness, fatherly strength and good old common sense.
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Today, more often than not, television portrays husbands as bumbling losers or contemptible, self-absorbed egomaniacs. Whether in dramas, comedies or commercials, the patriarchy is dead, at least on TV where men are fools – unless of course they're gay. On "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the "fab five" are supremely knowledgeable on all things hip, their life's highest purpose being to help those less fortunate than themselves – that is, straight men – to become cool.
However, it's not only in Hollywood, but on Main Street, that masculinity has become uncool and even despised. The evidence is everywhere:
Girls are excelling and moving on to college, where almost three out of every five students today are female. At the same time, young boys – who don't naturally thrive when forced to sit still at a desk listening to a teacher lecture for six hours a day – are diagnosed by the millions with new diseases that didn't exist a generation ago. To "treat" them and make their behavior more acceptable, we force them to take dangerous psycho-stimulant drugs.
Yes, dangerous. Between six and nine million American children, mostly males, are taking Ritalin, the most popular treatment for Johnny's "attention-deficit" and "overactivity" problems at school. But Ritalin is the trade name for Methylphenidate, which the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies as a "Schedule II" substance. "The controlled substances in this schedule," the DEA cautions, "have a high abuse potential with severe psychological or physical dependence liability, but have accepted medical use in the U.S."
Thus, rather than focusing on understanding boys' actual make-up and crafting an educational experience to fit their genuine needs, "pediatricians and child psychiatrists are increasingly turning to pharmacology as the treatment of choice for depression, attention disorder, severe anxiety, obsessive disorder, manic depression and other conditions," reports the New York Times. And twice as many boys as girls are being given these psychiatric drugs.
"What we have done," explains Thomas Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, "is we have a K-12 school system that seems to work relatively well for girls and does not work for a very large share of boys."
As a result, boys have fallen so far behind girls in American society that many colleges are concerned about maintaining a normal ratio between young men and women.
"It's led to what some college counselors call education's dirty little secret," reports the Denver Post: "affirmative action programs for men, no matter their color. Admissions directors at many schools are bypassing girls with better grades and more extracurricular activities in favor of boys who don't have similar credentials, just to keep male numbers up."
The Post report cites some disturbing but typical school statistics: "Boys are greater than 50 percent more likely than girls to repeat grades in elementary school, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education study. They're also one-third more likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to have a learning disability."
Oh yes, the suicide rate among teen boys is far higher than that of girls.
Typically, divorce means one thing to fathers: They lose their children. It's a widely acknowledged national scandal that the judicial system is biased in favor of the mother in child custody disputes, as a recent report by the New Hampshire Commission on the Status of Men, a state government panel, confirmed yet again. Nowhere, the panel found, is the bias against men so obvious than in matters of child custody and support. Fathers get custody of children in uncontested cases only 10 percent of the time and 15 percent of the time in contested cases. Women get sole custody 66 percent of the time in uncontested cases and 75 percent of the time in contested cases.
Why? How does this make sense? "Given the plethora of evidence documenting the benefits of involved fathers with their children, and the present rate of female participation in the workforce, the custody imbalance between fathers and mothers seems difficult to justify," concluded the state panel.
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"In fact," writes Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D., a Howard University political science professor and president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, "no evidence exists that large numbers of fathers voluntarily abandon their children. No government or academic study has ever demonstrated such an epidemic, and those studies that have addressed the question directly have concluded otherwise. In the largest federally funded study ever conducted on the subject, psychologist Sanford Braver demonstrated that very few married fathers abandon their children."
Overwhelmingly, writes Baskerville, "it is mothers, not fathers, who are walking away from marriages and thus separating children from their fathers. Other studies have reached similar or more dramatic conclusions." He adds:
Braver also found that when they are employed, virtually all divorced fathers pay the child support they owe and that the number of arrearages "estimated" by the government is derived not from any actual statistics but from surveys. The Census Bureau simply asked mothers whether they were receiving payments. No data exists to corroborate the mothers' claims. As Braver found, "there is no actively maintained national database of child support payments."
Braver’s research undermines most justifications for the multi-billion-dollar criminal enforcement machinery, as well as the proliferation of government programs to "promote responsible fatherhood."
If Braver is to be believed – and no official or scholar has challenged his research – the government is engaged in a massive witch hunt against innocent citizens.
How on earth did we get here? What happened to the great feminist revolution that was supposed to make ours a better, more equal society? Women are being liberated – or so we have been assured for decades – from their traditional roles, breaking the bonds of their former "servitude" and developing themselves personally, professionally, spiritually and sexually as never before. Meanwhile, men were supposed to develop and express their softer, more sensitive, nurturing and feminine side. Society was supposed to evolve into this great big happy androgynous paradise where everyone is equal to everyone else in every way.
How utterly stupid. But even if such radical "equality" were possible and desirable, why on earth do we now find ourselves in cultural hell rather than heaven? Why are men being denigrated as never before? Why are boys floundering in school as never before? Why are our family courts so flagrantly biased against fathers? Why, in short, if this is all about equality, is there such an unrelenting war against boys and men?
'Straightjacket of masculinity'
As Ph.D. scholar Christina Hoff Sommers writes in her groundbreaking book, "The War Against Boys": "It's a bad time to be a boy in America." She cites example after example of how America's cultural, academic and political elite have had an extended field day maligning and redefining masculinity, such as in their analysis of the student massacre at Columbine High School:
"The carnage committed by two boys in Littleton, Colorado," declares the Congressional Quarterly Researcher, "has forced the nation to reexamine the nature of boyhood in America." William Pollack, director of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital and author of the best-selling "Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood," tells audiences around the country, "The boys in Littleton are the tip of the iceberg. And the iceberg is all boys."
Sommers shows how the chic, politically correct '90s "discovery" that girls are being shortchanged by American society – which has resulted in the profound transformation of our schools, laws, parenting and culture to favor female success – is largely unsupported by either research or common sense. She goes on to show that it is actually boys who not only are being shortchanged, but are being targeted for radical reprogramming by a society increasingly offended by masculinity itself.
"How our culture binds boys in a 'straitjacket of masculinity' has suddenly become a fashionable topic," she explains:
There are now conferences, workshops, and institutes dedicated to transforming boys. Carol Gilligan, professor of gender studies at Harvard Graduate School of Education, writes of the problem of "boys' masculinity … in a patriarchal social order." Barney Brawer, director of the Boys' Project at Tufts University, told Education Week: "We've deconstructed the old version of manhood, but we've not [yet] constructed a new version." In the spring of 2000, the Boys' Project at Tufts offered five workshops on "reinventing Boyhood." The planners promised emotionally exciting sessions: "We'll laugh and cry, argue and agree, reclaim and sustain the best parts of the culture of boys and men, while figuring out how to change the terrible parts."
"Terrible"? Just what sort of qualifications do these "critics of masculinity" bring to their project of "reconstructing the nation's schoolboys," Sommers wonders aloud. "How well do they understand and like boys? Who has authorized their mission?"
The answer, as Sommers ultimately reveals, is that there is nothing wrong – and a very great deal right – with boys, just as there is with girls. As maverick feminist Camille Paglia courageously reminds her men-hating colleagues, masculinity is "the most creative cultural force in history." Indeed, the "force" that for millennia has tamed the wilderness, constructed civilizations, revolutionized life through dazzling inventions and sacrificed its own life to protect women and children has been masculinity.
Rebelling against father
Mountains have been written about this feminist-inspired assault on men, this mysterious hostility we've lived with for so long. So let's skip over the usual litany of evidence – the fiery denunciations of marriage (which some feminist professors condemn as "slavery" and "legalized rape"), the militant demonstrations of the '60s, the toxic books maligning homemaking in favor of corporate ladder-climbing, and so on. Instead, let's get right to the very heart of the matter. Let's dive down deep, so deep it's almost scary – and then dredge up what truly lurks underneath today's "war on fathers."
Let's make a crucial point at the outset: It's simply impossible to understand this issue – man-woman relations, marriage, masculinity, femininity, gender identity and so on – unless we understand that there is, in reality, an all-powerful and all-knowing God, that He created us and the world we live in, and that He has ordained laws and principles for us to live by. Further, that there is a realm of good and a realm of evil, and that both of these dimensions are powerfully vying for our allegiance all the time – and that, whether we realize it or not, we obey the impulses from one spiritual authority or the other. That's it – there's no neutral zone, no secular space that's off-limits to this cosmic tug-of-war over each one of us. Only in our vain imaginings does such a God-free zone exist.
Indeed, this world we live in, despite its magnificence and natural beauty and order, is a war zone and always has been. I'm not speaking only of the armed conflicts that have erupted throughout history, wracking nations, cities, villages and families, but also the ultimate war that rages within each one of us. There's an ongoing battle between heaven and hell – and we're the prize. Will we follow the higher, noble and unselfish impulses that beckon to us from the heavenly realm? Or will we give in to the lower, ignoble, selfish, lustful impulses that also appeal to us from just beyond the three dimensions of our earthly existence?
OK, I'm with you so far, you might say. But what does this have to do with hating men and masculinity?
Let's focus for a moment on a profound truth that wasn't the slightest bit controversial for the last 3,000 years or so, but is now: God is our Father in Heaven – our Father, not our Mother. Calling God "Father" – despite some of the recent, politically correct Bible versions that neuter or feminize such masculine references to the Almighty – is not due to culture, church dogma or linguistics. It's for real, folks. The Creator of the Universe doesn't have a mother's nature. He's a strong but loving, just but merciful, Father, King and Judge.
And guess what? More than any other single factor in our lives, our relationship with our earthly father sets the pattern for how we will relate to our Heavenly Father. That is to say, if we have a good father, whose maturity and character make him easy to respect, it's natural for a child to transfer that bond he has with his earthly father to his Heavenly Father later on.
Moreover, what's true for individuals applies to entire civilizations. When we encourage the bond between fathers and their children, our society prospers. When we separate fathers from their kids – through destructive feminist philosophies, subversive no-fault divorce laws and the like – our society not only fragments, but loses its very identity, which is exactly what we see happening today.
Why is this true? Because, contrary to feminist orthodoxy, men are different from women! In this confused era of feminized men who wear earrings and are embarrassed at their own masculinity, this may be hard to accept, but there really is a reason Jesus was a man and that all of His 12 disciples were men and that the Bible was written by men and that the vast majority of pastors, priests and rabbis are men.
And that reason is not, as radical feminists insist, that a bunch of sexist, patriarchal pigs created the Christian religion just to enslave and control women. Rather, men were simply designed by the Creator to love and protect and defend and lead women and children – in every way, including spiritually. (And yes, I realize there were also very godly women surrounding Jesus, just as there are wonderfully righteous women around today, but the point is, it is men who are meant to bear the ultimate responsibility and burden of leadership.)
Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin, who died recently, didn't think men should be the leaders of much of anything. In fact, she urged women not to marry. "Like prostitution," she wrote, "marriage is an institution that is extremely oppressive and dangerous for women." Such a radical view becomes more understandable when we realize Dworkin had been abused by the men in her life. At nine, an unknown man reportedly molested her in a movie theater, and when she eventually married, her anarchist husband abused her severely – frequently punching, kicking and burning her, and beating her head against the floor until she was unconscious. Is it any wonder she developed a hatred for men?
Andrea, if you could hear me, I would say to you: I am truly sorry for the things you suffered at the hands of corrupt, violent and abusive men in your life. But you erred greatly in concluding that therefore fatherhood, marriage and men are all worthless and toxic to women. That belief emanated from your rage toward those who victimized you – and in your anger you sadly extended that condemnation to apply to virtually all men.
The simple truth, which most of us understood when we were little children, is that "father" – if he is bonded to our Heavenly Father – "knows best." But what exactly do those words, "bonded to our Heavenly Father," mean? Are they some sort of religious mumbo-jumbo meant to subjugate women?
Hardly. Let me tell you what those words don't mean. They don't refer to a phony, prideful, pretentious hypocrite hiding behind his religion. Rather, they refer to an ordinary man living in the light of constant, honest self-examination, progressively giving up his own selfishness, anger and self-doubt, and accepting full responsibility for the lives of his family members. Such a man is worthy of being followed, respected and loved. One important proof of this "heavenly bonding" comes when he sees that his wife is right and is willing to submit to her correct discernment. Remember, a good man serves a Higher Right. What's important to him is what is right, not who is right. So, sometimes "mother knows best," but it is father who decides the question. Otherwise no one is ultimately responsible.
'What if he's a jerk?'
But – you are now surely asking, or possibly screaming – what if he is not a good man? What if your man is unprincipled and angry and selfish and dense? How can you respect such a man, let alone follow him?
That brings us to the most important point of all. Hating our earthly father (or husband), no matter how bad he is, makes it very difficult if not impossible to form a genuine bond with our Heavenly Father. Remember the Commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" (Exodus 20:12 KJV). There's something vital and actually life-giving ("that thy days may be long upon the land …") about honoring our father and mother, even if they're very imperfect – in fact, especially if they are imperfect, which they're bound to be. It's easy to love people who love you back. Loving people despite their flaws is the key, and who deserves that love better than the very ones who gave you life?
But again, how do you honor your father if he's just not honorable?
Here's the secret: If you're fortunate enough to have a decent father (again, this applies to husbands as well), respect him and appreciate him for the good you see in him. But if your father is so deeply flawed that he has hurt or corrupted you, then you can still "honor" him – and thus obey the commandment – by giving up your resentment and hatred for him.
I'm talking about forgiveness, of course, but I find a lot of people don't quite understand what this really means. Forgiveness doesn't mean you conclude that his treatment of you was OK, because it may have been thoroughly rotten. Rather, to truly forgive means, as a Christian minister I know once said memorably: "Feel the hurt – but not the hate."
Think about this. It could change your life.
When someone wrongs you, there's a critical difference between the "hurt" and the "hate" that result, although the two always tend to be mixed together into one big pain. However, a truly sincere person who desires to obey that commandment can rise above the hate component.
For a powerful example of this principle, watch the movie, "The Passion of the Christ." Jesus was flogged and mocked and tortured – but although He certainly felt the hurt of that awful abuse, he didn't fall to experience hate. Rather, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34 KJV).
Please don't tell me, Well, that was Jesus, He can do this, but I can't. Baloney. We can all forgive, completely and totally – in fact, we're commanded to do so: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15 KJV).
Let's bring this down to earth. Suppose I thoughtlessly, or even maliciously, trip you and cause you to sprain your ankle. You will, of course, feel pain in your ankle, but you will also very likely resent me for causing you that pain and injury. That hostility toward me is a separate pain, distinct from the physical pain in your ankle.
As a matter of fact, your anger toward me increases your overall discomfort level, because of the emotional upset you're experiencing on top of the physical injury. Get rid of the anger toward the person who caused the injury – in other words, forgive him – and you're left with the much more tolerable pain in your ankle. Who knows, you may even recover faster. Forgiveness has a way of bringing God and healing into the picture.
So, women, if you have been hurt by your father or husband, realize that if you are willing, you can give up the resentment that always seems to accompany violation, cruelty or betrayal, and which clings to us even years afterward like some sort of parasite on our soul. This resentment slowly destroys our spirit and feeds our pride, that dark nature we all inherit. That's right, resentment is literally food for the wrong side of us, which grows larger and stronger when fed daily doses of anger and unforgiveness.
Fortunately, the opposite of this syndrome is also wonderfully true: If you can just find it in your heart to genuinely forgive, the dark side of you will die a little bit and the bright side will grow stronger. Just "feel the hurt" while you quietly "let go of the hate." Have a little compassion; it will make it easier to let go of the hate. Realize that the man who hurt you was probably a victim himself – confused, programmed, dehumanized, and injected with anger during his own flawed upbringing.
This genuine forgiveness toward your father or husband actually exerts a powerful, unseen force on him – mysteriously helping him to recognize his long-invisible faults, and to grow beyond them.
Men, don't blame women for giving up on you and divorcing you. Some of the blame rightfully belongs to you! Your intense need for their emotional and sexual support, your selfish use of them, your impatience, your angry unmanliness – all this and much more literally creates the resentment within your beloved. Remember, women are much more vulnerable than men. You must be strong for your wife, which will eventually inspire her to be strong for you. So give up your own "hurt feelings" – really anger – toward her for being so emotional and even unreasonable; it’s the result of a frustration you've had a large part in creating or feeding.
America needs to get a handle on its divorce epidemic. We're committing national suicide – one family at a time. Many troubled couples just don't know how to deal with all the hatred and emotion that evolves between them. I see many instances where both spouses are decent people, yet they develop such conflict and pain between them that they just can't bear to live together any more.
But how many marriages could be saved if the offended spouse – the one pushing for the divorce, which is usually the wife – were just to learn to give up all that anger for the other?
Which brings us back full circle to our question: What's behind the war on men?
The angry spirit of the radical feminist says, basically: "Men are selfish dogs who use women for their own gratification. Christianity is a man's religion, used for centuries to oppress women. Women are better off without these selfish men, and without the god of selfish men." Although few people reading this would identify consciously with such radical views, in reality millions of us have embraced the secret rebellion against God and patriarchy represented in those sentiments.
In fact, our rebellion against God and this nation's core, Judeo-Christian values – revered during previous ages, but mocked by our own – has reached the point that many of us feel threatened, not by weak, shallow and selfish men, but by real manliness! That's right: We have become so confused and corrupted that not only have we lost our grip on our own former nobility, confidence and national identity, but we now cynically mock the righteous soul when he happens to appear on the scene, because his goodness shames us.
What do I mean by "manliness"? A real man is not today's foppish, effeminate "metrosexual" male, obsessed with clothing and hair care. But neither is he the caveman caricature of "Maddox," author of the bestselling "The Alphabet of Manliness," whose "real man" is a foul-mouthed brute who takes advantage of women at every opportunity and knows how to crush a beer can on his face.
That's not being a man. That's being less than an animal. In reality – brace yourself for this – a godly man, a truly masculine man, a truly "manly" man, is a reflection of God's nature. (Remember, we're supposed to be created in His image.)
The ultimate "real man," of course, was Jesus of Nazareth. He was strong, outspoken and God-centered – also patient, sensitive and caring (but not effeminate). He was a "force of one," who comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. He confronted people with their sins and hypocrisy, while offering nothing less than the way to God and everlasting happiness.
So what happened to Him? The ultimate man was so threatening to the political and religious elite of his day that they executed Him.
What about us today? While we bemoan "deadbeat dads," let's pause for a moment to ask ourselves a scary question: If a really great man, a Christ-like man, appeared on the scene – or someone even close – could we stand him?
On today's secular, matrix-like world stage, where God's reality is seen as discredited myth, and alien philosophies and sexual obsession embraced as enlightenment and liberation, we simply have lost sight of who and what we actually are. Men are meant to be Christ-like – righteous, strong, courageous, assertive, butt-kicking, sacrificial doers of what's right. Women are meant to be their righteous, strong, courageous, noble helpers and partners.
Yet, even though all men fall short of the mark at one point or another, remember that they still have that divine spark within, somewhere. Just remember that it's there – and seek it out and serve it. And men, remember that your beloved, whatever her faults, has a divine spark, an innocent angelic nature buried inside, even if you can't see it right now. Seek it out and serve it.
Ladies, is it really right to reject men for their many flaws, giving up on the good man that may be locked up inside? Isn't that exactly what men do to you when they treat you as objects of selfish gratification – denying your true worth and ignoring your well being?
The solution is pretty simple. Men, stop looking at women as though they were created to serve your ego. They weren't – they really weren't. Care about them for who and what they are – and could be.
And women, give up the anger against your men. Their failure to find real, selfless love for you is their serious flaw. But your resentment toward them for that failure is your serious flaw. Give each other a break. Bring the best out of your spouse – and your kids, and everyone else for that matter – by discovering how to be both patient and strong at the same time. There's magic there.
Most urgently of all, reject divorce as an option. Statistics prove second marriages are even more likely to fail, and you will lose forever the youth you shared and the life you lived – and your children will suffer most of all.
When we break the bond between fathers and their children, we're breaking the bond between God the Father and our nation. When we restore that connection, our society will be healed. It's as simple as that.
That's God's way. Listen to Him. He's your Father, and believe me, He knows best.